15 Best Bar & Alcohol Gifts, According to Our Resident Drinks Expert

John deBary's fave holiday gifts include booze, books, and... wait, citrus juicers?

November 23, 2021

It should come as no surprise that as someone who has been professionally drinks-saturated for the last 15 years, my go-to gifts are all beverages, all the time. I grew up in a family that had relatively robust gift-giving traditions (for example, every year, our gifts came with riddles we had to solve before we could open them), so I've developed a useful set of principles that I live by.

For me, gifting is less about the transfer of property from one person to another, but really about showing someone how much you know and love them. Shareable gifts such as alcohol and non-boozy drinks are a perfect way to express that because it says, “Hey, I like you, and I think you will like this thing. Let’s enjoy it together.” Consumables like drinks (again) are also great because you’re asking far less of the recipient. They don’t have to hang on to whatever tchotchke you gave them long enough so that they don’t look callous for swiftly discarding (or regifting) it.

If you choose to go with non-perishables, I like to stick to small items like books or useful tools—especially if the person lives in a cozy apartment. That said, it’s always good to have at least one over-the-top big-ticket item in your arsenal for when you really want to blow someone away.

So, in the spirit of sharing, here are my favorite bar and alcohol gifts—even if they don't drink.

Photo by Ty Mecham
1. Proteau Zero-Proof Botanical Drinks, Set of 2, $40

Proteau is a line of zero-proof (aka non-alcoholic) botanical drinks that make a perfect host gift—and not just for the teetotalers at the party. A fun bonus, it’s created by yours truly.

Photo by Haus
2. Haus Sampler Kit, $50

Haus has been making delightful and unique aperitif wines in Sonoma California since 2019. Slightly stronger than a typical wine, these drinks are complex enough to serve on their own, or used as a base in any number of low(er) ABV cocktails.

Photo by Rocky Luten
3. Food52 Vintage-Inspired Etched Cocktail Glasses, $45-$125

These are perfect because the etching makes them just cute enough to feel special but not overdone, and the large size gives you a very forgiving (read: generous) setting for drinks. Thimble-sized glasses are vulnerable to spills, which is something you always want to avoid at any holiday party no matter how debauched.

Photo by Amazon
4. “Good Drinks: Alcohol-Free Recipes for When You're Not Drinking for Whatever Reason,” Julia Bainbridge, $22.99 $15.49

Aside from being one of the best-titled cocktail books in existence, this excellent tome opens readers up to a vast and still somewhat unexplored world of non-alcoholic cocktails. Julia sourced recipes from the nation’s top bartenders, so some of the techniques and ingredients can be challenging, but well worth the effort.

Photo by Cheeky
5. Cheeky x Electricdust Kit, $18

Cheeky Cocktails makes at-home bartending a snap with ready-to-mix staples like honey syrup and lime juice, but I am a sucker for anything purple and shiny. This kit contains a “flavor enhancer” powder that makes standard cocktails taste like they’re from another dimension.

Photo by Livewire
6. Livewire Holy Tyger, $24.99

Bartender Aaron Polsky’s newly-launched line of ready-to-drink cocktails comes with a twist: each drink in the line is designed by a star bartender and they are compensated according to a transparent model. The Holy Tyger was developed by bar icon Shannon Mustipher and features whiskey, coconut, lime, and bitters.

Photo by Amazon
7. “The Way of the Cocktail: Japanese Traditions, Techniques, and Recipes,” Julia Momosé, $32 $27.99

This just-released stunner of a book is filled with dozens of elegant, if possibly a bit challenging, cocktails as well as pages and pages of sweetly-written autobiographical recollections of Julia’s time growing up in Japan with rich detail about local drinks and their history.

Photo by Uncommon Goods
8. The Gourmet's Smoking Cloche, $200

This is that absurd over-the-top gift I was talking about. Of course no one needs a device that smoke drinks, foods, and anything else you want to infuse with smoky goodness, but once you have one, it’s really fun to play around with. (Is it weird that I want to put my scarf in it before a long winter walk?)

Photo by Goldbelly
9. Solid Wiggles The Boozy Holiday Centerpiece Jelly Cake, $109

Gone are the days when Jell-O shots are relegated to unfortunate college parties. Solid Wiggles has been gracing us with highbrow, cocktail-inflected cakes since October 2020, and we’re all so much better off for it. Its limited-edition holiday cake blends orange juice, rum-barrel-aged Scotch, cranberry, brown sugar, and milk jelly.

Photo by Rocky Luten
10. Chef'n Citrus Juicer, $27.99-$43.99

For some reason, my parents thought it was appropriate to put kitchen tools in varying degrees of usefulness and size in our stockings every year, so I’m calling this extremely functional juicer a stocking stuffer. As a professional bartender, I’ve seen a lot of juicers and this one has the best balance of ergonomics and yield.

Photo by Spicewalla
11. Spicewalla Tuk Tuk's Fried Chicken Spice, $13.11

Yes, of course you can use this spice blend devised by Kentucky-based, Sri Lankan-American chef Sam Fore in food, but I love to use this as a rim for a Michelada or stirred into a Bloody Mary to give those drinks a complex hit of spice.

Photo by Casamara Club
12. Casamara Club—Alta, $45

I discovered Casamara Club during the holidays in 2019 and it's been a staple for me each year since. These non-alcoholic “leisure sodas” are inspired by Italian bitter liqueurs and are perfect to be thrown into the rotation at any holiday party. The “Alta” is my favorite in the line and it’s the only one that comes in cans—a plus for portability.

Photo by Amazon
13. OXO SteeL Cocktail Strainer, $8.95

This is by far my favorite cocktail strainer, and anyone seeking to make drinks properly at home needs one of these. Great ergonomics with silicone nubs for easy grip, this strainer also features a compact design that’s sure to be respectful of any space constraints in a home bar.

Photo by Cocktail Kingdom
14. Cocktail Kingdom Koriko Weighted Shaking Tins, $31.98 $24.80

When you want to give the gift of pure practicality, but with some chic matte black flair. A solid all-metal shaking set is a crucial element to any bar, and these are some of the best. Not only are they ideal for all your shaken drinks, but the small tin also serves double duty as a stirring vessel, avoiding the need for a separate tool like a fancy mixing glass (unless you want one, of course).

Photo by Amazon
15. “Drink What You Want: The Subjective Guide to Making Objectively Delicious Cocktails,” John deBary, $25 $14.99

What kind of author would I be if I didn’t plug my own book in this gift guide? Fortunately, it just so happens that this book is a perfect gift for any drink-lover in your life, whether they’re just starting out or an old salt. I spent years training people how to make and think about drinks, so this book is a perfect way to get someone up to speed and features easy drinks, hard drinks, and even a full chapter on zero-proof cocktails so there's something for everyone.

This post was updated in November 2021 with brand-new gift ideas straight from our Resident John deBary.

What are your fave happy hour gifts to give this year? Let us know below!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. Food52 earns an affiliate commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.
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